The capacity crowd's intake of breath was audible as Brigitte Mayes' serve struck the top of the net on Thursday night.
With a whole lot of top spin and perhaps a little Joseph Edward Gallo Gym magic, the ball slowly trickled over the net and onto the Pacific Union side of the court.
There was little the Pioneers could do as it fell to the court for an ace and the decisive point in a crucial game two.
The Golden Bobcats exited the court to a standing ovation from the 550 fans in attendance and rode that momentum to a historic 25-16, 27-25, 20-25, 25-18 victory in the school's first ever on-campus varsity event.
"There are some points in volleyball where you just know it's meant to be," said sophomore outside hitter Alexandria Curtis, who finished with 10 kills and 16 digs. "When Brigitte's serve hit the net, you could here the crowd hold its breath.
"When it bounced over, it was just perfect."
It was deserved, too, as Mayes came up huge in the clutch for UC Merced (1-0 CALPAC, 1-4).
After riding the crowd's energy to an easy win in game one, the Golden Bobcats used a 10-0 run to jump out to a 12-2 lead in game two.
They couldn't sustain the momentum.
Behind the steady play of senior outside hitter Casey Miller (15 kills), Pacific Union (0-1, 2-7) clawed its way back into the game.
A Calai Brown kill finally knotted the game up at 22-22, and she gave the Pioneers game point two plays later with a big block.
"We kind of relaxed in game two and let them back into it," Bobcats head coach Allen McCreary said. "When I called timeout, I told the girls it was all about us right then.
"We were making too many mistakes. If we just got back to playing our game, we'd be fine."
McCreary's calming speech served its purpose.
A big net call cut the lead to 24-23, and then Mayes tied things back up with a timely kill.
Each team exchanged a pair of points before Mayes put the game away with back-to-back aces.
"The crowd was huge for us," freshman outside hitter Valeria Martinez said. "Every time we needed a lift, they pumped us right back up.
"It was really exciting to be a part of."
The only thing missing for UC Merced on Thursday night was the three-game sweep.
Pacific Union recomposed and took game three 25-20.
McCreary's kids were determined there'd be no fifth game.
"When they sat down on the bench for the intermission, you could see them saying, 'We need to finish it here,' " McCreary said. "Valeria in particular accepted that challenge."
The freshman upped her play in the fourth game, recording eight of her match-high 24 kills.
Chrystal Daniel ended the evening with one of her match-high 4½ blocks.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or via e-mail at email@example.com.